Handmaid’s Tale

All posts tagged Handmaid’s Tale

During the research process, I managed to come across an article that was published on January 27th by the New York Times. It is called “Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics”. This article should be a good resource for some of my peers who are interested in drawing parallels between real-life and fictional dystopias.

The article begins by talking about the recent Women’s March on Washington, which took place on January 21. Thousands upon thousands of people rallied in Washington to express their feelings about the recent presidential inauguration. According to the article, some of the protestors held up signs that expressed concerns about the United States becoming an actual dystopia. In protest primarily for women’s rights, some of these signs alluded to Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale.

The article argues that an increasing number of US citizens are growing uneasy about the current state of the country, and are turning to dystopian literature in response to find frightening similarities. This is evidenced by the sharp spike in book sales just after the election of Donald Trump. According to the article, books like 1984 by George Orwell and It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis gained popularity on several bestsellers’ lists. The author of the article makes use of statistics (logos) to indicate this trend.

For the next few paragraphs, the article incorporates brief snippets from several sources. These sources include reader reviews, interviews with English professors, news hosts, and novelists. By explaining the recent surge in sales and increasing interest in dystopian literature, they add credibility (ethos) to the article’s central argument.

The article also claims that “these [dystopian] stories offer moral clarity at a time when it can be difficult to keep up with… the firehouse of information and disinformation on social media” (Alter). In short, people do not know what to make of the news that is perpetuated by media outlets, and the conflicting news that is being perpetuated by the President himself.

This article could be used to enhance the argument that we are not far away from becoming a dystopia in real life. The fact that books like 1984 are seeing rises in readership is indicative of an eerie trend: that elements of a fictional dystopia have already manifested or are starting to manifest in the United States.

The article is also important to my own research project, since it reaffirms that many elements we see in dystopian literature (stratification based on race, gender, and economic status) are already reflected in society today and might only get worse.

Works Cited:

Alter, Alexandra. “Uneasy About the Future, Readers Turn to Dystopian Classics”. The New York Times, The New York Times Company, 27 Jan. 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/business/media/dystopian-classics-1984-animal-farm-the-handmaids-tale.html?_r=0.




For the upcoming presentation, I will be discussing the negative consequences of systemic oppression on individuals in YA dystopias. My paper is called Race, Gender, and Oppression: How Invisible Forces Affect Individual Experiences in Dystopias.

I will begin by giving a brief explanation of the term, oppression, and the argument that oppression should not be perceived as a uniform force that affects everyone in the same way. In my research, I have come up with logical and sound evidence that uniform oppression is impossible in societies that are hierarchal by nature. Throughout my presentation, I hope to topple the common misperception that everyone suffers to the same extent in dystopias.

To provide evidence for my claim, I will be analyzing several characters to demonstrate the effects of race and gender on individual experiences. I will explore how race and gender can affect a person’s standing in society and how oppression is not only a byproduct of totalitarian rule, but also a byproduct of an ingrained social hierarchy – based on race, gender, and other factors.

Specifically, for this presentation, I will draw examples from Legend, Little Brother, and The Handmaid’s Tale to examine the lives of characters who are disadvantaged by systemic oppression. In each dystopian novel, there are characters who are oppressed in different ways, depending on his or her background. For example, in Little Brother, some characters are disadvantaged by their race/ethnicity, while in The Handmaid’s Tale, female characters are subordinated and live in a society controlled by men. Legend is a foray into another type of oppression that divides characters by socioeconomic status.

After analyzing characters individually, I will then analyze characters as a group. In the second half of my presentation, I will be comparing and/or contrasting the experiences of privileged characters to those of characters who are less fortunate. I will explain why characters think and behave the way they do, and why some characters cannot afford to act as rashly as other characters. To end my presentation, I will reiterate the main points of my argument and (hopefully) leave the audience convinced.

Works Cited:



The basic idea of a dystopia is a utopia gone awry. Usually, the people of influence within the dystopia manipulate the citizens into believing it is utopia through means of propaganda or media censorship. While the totalitarian government which most dystopias inhabit can appear perfect at first glance, upon further review it is easy to see the flaws in the society.

When another genre is added to a dystopian novel, the underlying warnings or agendas of that novel are not necessarily changed, but instead another facet is added to the ever-complex idea. For example, a sci-fi dystopian gives the reader a terrible glimpse into a future where scientific discoveries aren’t regulated. Often, this advanced technology is used to instill fear, control, and further the power of the government.

Apocalyptic dystopias are slightly different than Sci-Fi dystopias because, while sci-fi dystopias use futuristic technology to ensure compliance, apocalyptic dystopias tend to offer protection more than anything. For example, in Divergent the worst thing that could happen would be to become factionless, and without the aid of the government

Romantic dystopias are interesting though. Because dystopias diminish the individual’s control, instead the government oversees almost all aspects of a citizen’s life. Therefore, love threatens the government’s control because it is unregulated and threatens the absolute power of the government. In dystopian books, such as Matched, the government has gone so far as to determine who their citizens are to love. Therefore, minimizing the threat of individuality by lack free choice. Delirium by Lauren Oliver, goes one step further in that the government tries to prevent love all together. One of my favorite books, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, has a similar approach, but instead of just withholding the feeling of love from their citizens, everyone is completely drugged, devoid of any emotions or individual thoughts. While this works well in preventing conflict and keeping the government intact, it is certainly no way to live.

A dystopian young adult novel has a younger demographic, so the content of the book can’t be quite as graphic as that of a book like the Handmaid’s Tale. However, because the author cannot be explicit, darker plots are often mentioned in passing at and left to the reader’s discretion. For example, in Mockingjay, Finnick Odair admits that he was sold for prostitution by President Snow to the horror of many readers. However, instead of explaining or exploring that story any further, Suzanne Collins is restricted by the young adult demographic and only mentions it once.